Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Laurel & Hardy, Plumbers

We've got a slab leak in our house.  It's not the first time.  I wrote about the first slab leak, repaired under warranty in the PHC Profit Report and entered the article in a national contest by Terry Love about the worst consumer plumbing experience.  It won first place.  While I have much higher expectations from the Service Roundtable member (the staff rotates our plumbing calls among local plumbing members), when my wife texted me, "Giant hole in floor full of muddy water," I couldn't help but remember Laurel and Hardy.  It follows...

We had a slab leak in our house, while still under warranty. The builder sent technicians from the installing plumber to take care of the problem. The good news is that they seemed to be technically competent to handle the plumbing. As far as the rest…

The leak was located under the slab in the master bedroom closet. I pointed out the general area where I thought the leak was and not wanting to be a pest, I left them to do their job. I was reading in the living room when the first plumber (Call him Laurel) came out and asked, "How do you unlock the closet door?"

"Well," I said, "You don't because there's no lock on the door."

"Oh," said Laurel and disappeared.

I sat for a minute then decided I better check and see what was going on. I went to the master bath room and heard the other plumber (call him, Hardy) exclaim, "Ouch, that hurts" from behind the closet door.

"Watch it," said Laurel, "that's a sharp knife."

"I just figured that out," muttered Hardy.

I asked, "Is something the matter?"

"He's locked himself in," said Laurel.

"I can't see what I'm doing," said Hardy.

No light was coming from under the door, so I suggested, "Try the light switch. It's on the right, next to the door."

Light poured out of the bottom of the door. "Hey, that's a lot better."

"He's trying to take the door handle off," explained Laurel, "It's the only way he can get out."

Remembering the comment about the knife, I asked, "Do you want a screwdriver?"

Laurel just looked at me, like the concept of a screwdriver to remove a screw was foreign to him. Then again, maybe it was.

I went to get a screwdriver, but by the time I got back, Hardy managed to get the door handle off. He was standing there holding the knife in one hand and wiping blood on his shirt with the other. I left the room to keep from laughing.

A few minutes later, I revisited the scene. Laurel was busy trying to reassemble the door handle. He couldn't quite figure out how to do it, so he left it hanging halfway on the door (it only took me five minutes to fix it after they left).

Since Laurel couldn't get the door handle back on, he was afraid he or Hardy might lock themselves in again (even though the door doesn't lock, never had before, and never has since). Laurel decided to tape the door's bolt open (apparently it never occurred to them to simply leave the door open). All he must have had was some kind of super tacky black duct tape because he covered the door with it. Once applied, parts of it never came off. There are still black marks around the door handle that won't come off. Eventually, I'm going to have to repaint the door.

Laurel located the leak. Trying to be conscientious, he carefully moved the refrigerator back from the wall in the kitchen and took everything off the top. "These might come off when we jackhammer," he said.

I appreciated his thoroughness. However, the refrigerator was fifteen feet away from the leak. Laurel failed to move my wife's treasured breakables that were placed around the master bathtub, around five feet from the leak. Of course, once Laurel started jackhammering, the breakables broke.

Laurel finished the jackhammering and located the leak. He then declared he had to run to the supply house, but that Hardy was staying. A few minutes later Hardy came out and asked for a cup. I thought he was thirsty, so I have him one, filled with ice water. He looked at me like I was strange and disappeared back into the bedroom. I went back to my book in the living room.

A few minutes after that, Hardy came walking out the front door carrying a bucket. He repeated the process a few minutes later and again, a few minutes after that.

Curiosity got the better of me and I went to the closet. Hardy was on the floor over the slab leak using the cup I gave him to scoop water from the hole in the slab and fill the bucket. He was using one hand to scoop the water while he held the other, cut hand, in the air so that he didn't get it dirty (or dirtier). The water was gradually rising in the hole.

"Don't you have a pump?" I asked.

"Pump?" Hardy looked befuddled.

I had to leave to keep from laughing.

After a while (i.e., enough of Hardy's bucket trips that I lost count), Laurel returned. They eventually got the water under control, though the cup was ruined in the process.

Laurel came out to tell me someone from the shop was coming by to pick up Hardy for another job, since he wasn't needed to finish up. I decided to run some errands and told Laurel I was going to Lowe's.

"Could you pick up some rebar?" he asked, "I forgot it."

About the time I returned with Laurel's rebar, the mini-pickup from the shop showed up for Hardy. The truck had been hit somewhere down the line. One rear quarter panel was pushed in so far that the top of the tire was exposed. The bumper was bent straight up over the tailgate, then forward, then sideways, then down, in a pretzel configuration that looked more like a preformed radiator hose than something done to heavy gauge steel. By now, this was the type of vehicle I'd come to expect from these guys. My wife and I call their installation truck, the Exxon Valdez, since it's as big as a tanker and leaves an oil slick everywhere it goes.

Laurel eventually finished. He didn't clean up, though he did move the refrigerator back. He left to door handle hanging partially assembled, with back tape holding the bolt. He never offered to replace the cup or pay for the rebar (remember, this was warranty work). Fortunately, he did get the slab leak fixed.

While this sounds like a funny plumber story, it's really a scary one. Later, when the builder was asking about the repair, he mentioned that the plumbing contractor had sent their best crew to our house. Now that's scary.

1 comment:

  1. Really! This is like a scene from a classic funny movie where two plumbers are called by the owner of the house to fix their pipelines. The funny dialogue on the tools they need and what they should do fit the bill of perfectly! They should be more careful and thorough next time though.